The trouble with people like him is that they think that theycan brush off people like me. Like I was nothing. They don'tunderstand the type of world we're living in now; all thosemenaced souls clamouring for attention and recognition.He was a very arrogant young man, so full of himself.
No longer. Now he's groaning, blood spilling thicklyfrom the wounds in his head and his yellow, unfocused eyesare gandering around, desperately trying to find clarity,some meaning in the bleakness, the darkness around him. Itmust be lonely.
He's trying to speak now. What is it that he is trying tosay to me?
Help. Police. Hospital.
Or was it help please hospital? It doesn't really matter,that little point of detail because his life is ebbing away:human existence distilled to begging for the emergencyservices.
You pushed me away mister. You rejected me. Youtricked me and spoiled things between me and my truelove. I've seen you before. Long ago, just lying there as youare now. Black, broken, dying. I was glad then and I'm gladnow.
I reach into my bag and I pull out my claw hammer.
Part of me is elsewhere as I'm bringing it down on hishead. He can't resist my blows. They'd done him in good,the others.
After two fruitless strikes I feel a surge of euphoria onmy third as his head bursts open. His blood fairly skooshesout, covering his face like an oily waterfall and driving meinto a frenzy; I'm smashing at his head and his skull iscracking and opening and I'm digging the claw hammerinto the matter of his brain and it smells but that's only himpissing and shitting and the fumes are sticking fast in thestill winter air and I wrench the hammer out, and staggerbackwards to watch his twitching death throes, seeing himcoming from terror to that graceless state of someone whoknows that he is definitely falling and I feel myself losingmy balance in those awkward shoes and I correct myself,turning and moving down the old stairway into the street.
Out on the pavement it's very cold and totally deserted.I look at a tin-foil carton with a discarded takeaway left init. Someone has pished in its remains and rice floats on asmall freezing reservoir of urine. I move away. The cold hasslipped into my bones with every step down the road jarring,making me feel like I'm going to splinter. Flesh andbone seem separate, as if a void exists between them. There'sno fear or regret but no elation or sense of triumph either.It's just a job that had to be done.
Copyright © 1998 Irvine Welsh. All rights reserved.
Woke up this morning. Woke up into the job.
The job. It holds you. It's all around you; a constant, enclosingabsorbing gel. And when you're in the job, you look out atlife through that distorted lens. Sometimes, aye, you get yourwee zones of relative freedom to retreat into, those light, delicatespaces where new things, different, better things can beperceived of as possibles.
Then it stops. Suddenly you see that those zones aren't thereany more. They were getting smaller, you knew that. You knewthat some day you'd have to get round to doing something aboutit. When did this happen? The realisation came some time after.It doesn't really matter how long it took: two years, three, fiveor ten. The zones got smaller and smaller until they didn't exist,and all that's left behind is the residue. That's the games.
The games are the only way you can survive the job.Everybody has their wee vanities, their own little conceits. Myone is that nobody plays the games like me, Bruce Robertson.D.S. Robertson, soon to be D.I. Robertson.
The games are always, repeat, always, being played. Mosttimes, in any organisation, it's expedient not to acknowledgetheir existence. But they're always there. Like now. Now I'm sittingwith a bad nut and Toal's thriving on this. I've been fuckingbusy and he's told me to be here, not asked, mind you, told. I gotit all from Ray Lennox who was first on the scene with someuniformed spastics. Aye, I got it all from young Ray but Toal ofcourse needs his audience. Behind the times Toalie boy, be-hindthe blessed times.
He paces up and down like one of those fuckin InspectorMorse type of cunts. His briefings are the closest to action thespastic gets. Then he sits back down on his arse, petulant becausepeople are still filing in. Respect and Toal go together like fishand chocolate ice cream, whatever the spastic deludes himself bychoosing to think.
I got three sheets last night and this lighting is nipping myheid and my bowels are as greasy as a hoor's chuff at the end ofa shift doon the sauna. I fart silently but move swiftly to theother side of the room. The technique is to let the fart ooze outa bit before you head off, or you just take it with you in yourtroosers tae the next port of call. It's like the fitba, you haveto time your runs. My friend and neighbour, Tom Stronach, aprofessional footballer and a fanny-merchant extraordinaire,knows all about that.
Tom Stronach. Not a magic name. Not a name to conjurewith.
Talking of timing, Gus Bain arrives, red-faced faeCrawford's with the sausage rolls. He's passing them aroundand looking like a spare prick at a hoors' convention as Toalstarts his brief. Niddrie's looking on in the usual disapprovingmanner of the bastard. My fart-gas has wafted over to him.Result! He's waving it away ostentatiously and he thinks it'sfucking Toal!
Toal stands up and clears his throat: — Our victim is a young,black male in his early thirties. He was found on Playfair Steps ataround five o'clock this morning by council refuse workers. Wesuspect that he lives in the London area but there is at presentno positive identification. D.S. Lennox was down at the morguelast night with me, he says, nodding to young Ray Lennox whowisely keeps his features set in neutrality in order no tae flaghimself up as a target for the hatred and loathing which floatsaroond this room like a bad fart. My bad fart, most likely.
There was a time when we could exempt each other fromthat hatred and loathing. Surely there was. I feel a bit light, thenit's like my brain starts to birl in my head sending my thoughtsand emotions cascading around. I sense them emptying intosomething approximating a leaky bucket which is drained beforeI can examine its contents. And Toal's high, sharp voice, reachinginto me.
This is where he starts to play silly buggers. — It seems tohave been a fruitless night for our friend. He was in the JammyJoe's disco until three a.m. this morning and went home alone.That was when he was last reported alive. We can perhapsassume that our man felt very much an outsider, alone in astrange city which seemed to have excluded him.
Typical Toal, concerned with the state of mind of the cuntthat got murdered. Fancies himself as an intellectual. This is Toalwe are talking about here. It would be amusing if it wasn't sofucking tragic.
I bite into my sausage roll. The pepper and the ketchup Inormally have with it are up the stairs and it tastes plain andbland without them. That spunk-bag Toal's wrecked my fuckinday already! Wir only jist in the fuckin place!
As my fart retreats via the airvent I clock Niddrie exitingfrom the door, improving the room's atmosphere in much thesame way. Even Toal's sprightlier now. — The man was dressed inblue jeans, a red t-shirt and a black tracksuit top with orangestrips on the arms. His hair was cut short. Amanda, Toal gesturesto that silly wee lassie Amanda Drummond, who's doing all thatshe's good for, a psuedo-clerical job, dishing oot copies of thedescription. Drummond's had her frizzy blonde hair cut short,which makes her look even mair ay a carpet muncher. She hasbulging eyes which always give you the impression that she's inshock, and she's hardly any chin; just a sour, twisted moothwhich comes out of her neck. She's wearing a long, brown skirtwhich is too thick to see the pant line through, with a checkedblouse and a fawn and brown striped cardigan. I've seen mairmeat on a butcher's knife.
I think not.
— Thanks Amanda, Toal smiles, and this crawling wee sowcoos back at him. She'd suck his fuckin knob right there in frontof us if he asked her tae. No that it'll do her much good; she'llbe away soon, some cunt'll knock her up the duff and that'll beher playin at being polis over.
— Our murder victim left the nightclub and ... Toal continues,but Andy Clelland cuts in on a wind-up: — Boss, a wee pointof order. Maybe we shouldnae stigmatise the guy by referring tohim by such a pejorative term as victim?
You have to raise your glass to Clell, he always hits home.Toal looks a bit doubtful, and Amanda Drummond's noddingsupportively, completely unaware that he's taking the pish.
— The cunt's fuckin well deid, disnae matter what ye call umnow, Dougie Gillman says under his breath. I chuckle and GusBain does n aw.
— Sorry Dougie? Care to share that with us? Toal smiles sarcastically.
— Naw gaffer, s'awright. It's nothing, Gillman shrugs.Dougie Gillman has short brown hair, narrow, cold blue eyes anda big, powerful jaw you could break your fingers on. He's aboutmy height, five-eight, but is as wide as he is tall.
— Perhaps, craving your indulgence gentlemen, Toal sayscoldly, now trying to stamp his authority on the proceedings inNiddrie's absence, — we might continue. The deceased was probablymaking his way towards hotel accommodation on the SouthSide of the city. We've a team out checking the hotels for someoneof his description. Assuming that was the case, the route hetook to get there was interesting. We all know that there arecertain places you shouldn't go to in a strange city after dark,Toal raises his thick, straggly eyebrows, slipping back into hisshowboating mode, — places like dark alleys where the ambienceof such surroundings might incite even a reasonable person toperpetrate an evil deed.
The self-indulgent cunt's on one of his trips the day alright.Thinks that we're a bunch of fuckin bairns tae be spooked by hisbedtime stories.
— Now that twisting staircase which is the city's umbilicalcord connecting the Old Town with the New Town is one suchplace, he says, pausing dramatically.
Umbilical fuckin cord! It's a fuckin stair you fucking clown.S-T-A-I-R. I know that spazwit's crack; the bastard wants tae bea fuckin scriptwriter. I ken this because I got a sketch of what hehad up on his VDU when he went to answer a private phone-callin the quiet anteroom from his office. He was trying to write atelly or film script or some shite. In police time as well. Lazycunt's got nowt better tae dae, and on his salary too. That shit-bagleads a charmed life, I kid you not.
— As he began his ascent, perhaps the victim pondered this.Did he know the city? Possibly, otherwise he might not haveknown of this short-cut. But surely, had he known about it,alone, and at that time in the morning, he'd have thought twiceabout climbing it. That staircase, too dangerous and urine-soakedfor even the most desperate jakeys to crash in. The guy must havefelt fear. He didn't act on that fear. Is fear not the way of tellingyou that something's wrong? Like pain? Toal speculates. Peopleshuffle around nervously, and even Amanda Drummond has thegood grace to look embarrassed at this. Andy Clelland stifles alaugh by coughing. Dougie Gillman's eyes are on Karen Fulton'serse, which is not a bad place for them to be.
Toal's so intae his ain shit though, he's totally oblivious taeall this. The ring is his and he doesnae want tae spoil his own funby going for a knockout punch so early. — Maybe he felt it wasall paranoia, distortion of emotion. Then the voices. He musthave heard them coming, at that time of night you'd be bound tohear people on these steps.
No, he wants us to throw in the towel. Sorry Toalie, but it'snot the Bruce Robertson style. Let's joust. — Nae eye witnesses?I ask, glad that I omitted that term `gaffer'. That fucker's my bossin name only.
— Not as yet Bruce, he says curtly, upset at having his flowinterrupted. That's Toal; have a wank in our faces, never mindthose wee practical details that might actually help get whoevertopped this coon banged up.
— Then they were on him and they kicked him down to arecess in the stairs where a savage beating took place. One of theassailants, only one, went further than the others and struck theman with an implement. Forensic already say that the injuriesleft are consistent with those that would be made by a hammerwielded at force. This assailant did this repeatedly, caving in theman's skull and driving the implement into his brain. As I saidearlier, our friends in the council cleansing department foundthe body.
Your friends in the council cleansing department Toal. I haveno scaffy friends.
— Left him lying like rubbish, Gus shakes his head.
— Maybe he wis rubbish.
Fuck. That slipped out. I shouldnae have said that. They're alllooking at me. — Tae the scumbag that did him, like, I add.
— Are you postulating that it was a racially motivated attackBruce? Drummond quizzes, her mouth twisting downwards in aslow, agonised movement. Karen Fulton looks encouragingly ather, then at me.
— Eh, aye, I say. That starts them chattering, too loudly forthem to notice that my teeth are doing the same. This fuckinhangover. This fuckin place. This fuckin job.
Copyright © 1998 Irvine Welsh. All rights reserved.